How to Become a Plumber in California

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If you’d like to become a plumber in the state of California, a plumbing license will be required. Learn more about how to get a plumbing license and work as a plumber in California.

California Plumbing License Requirements

Plumbers in California must be licensed to work on any project worth more than $500 in combined labor and materials.

However, novice plumbers who are learning the trade do not need to be licensed immediately as long as they are being supervised directly by a registered plumbing contractor.

There are no apprentice or journeyman-level licensing requirements.

Types of California Plumbing Licenses

The only type of plumbing license in California is a Class C Specialty Contractor License C-36. No additional licenses are required.

Cost to Get a Plumbing License in California

The cost to apply to take the exam for a C-36 license is $330.

However, applicants who pass the exam must also pay an additional Initial License Application Fee of $200, plus a fingerprint scanning fee that varies by site.

The renewal fee for a plumbing contractor license in California is $450.

Plumbing Licensing Exams in California

The licensing exam for plumbing contractors in California includes both a trade portion and a law and business exam. Applicants must also pass an open-book asbestos exam designed to make contractors aware of the risks of asbestos exposure and to provide knowledge of how to respond appropriately.

The trade exam for a Class C-36 license consists of multiple-choice questions divided into five sections:

  1. Planning and estimating
  2. Roughing in and topping out plumbing systems
  3. Finishing plumbing installations
  4. Servicing, repairing, and remodeling plumbing systems
  5. Plumbing safety

Of the five sections, exam-takers can expect the first and second to be the longest at 21% and 26% of the exam, respectively.

Only 15% of the exam is devoted to questions regarding finishing plumbing installations, and just 18% concerns plumbing safety.

The law and business exam has eight sections:

  1. Organization of businesses.
  2. Managing business finances.
  3. Employment requirements for contractors.
  4. Understanding bonds, insurance, and liens.
  5. Contract requirements and execution.
  6. Licensing requirements for contractors.
  7. Safety concerns.
  8. Public works.

Of the law and business exam sections, questions about contract requirements and execution comprise nearly a quarter of the exam.

The other sections are shorter but vary in length, with public works questions taking up 7% of the exam and safety concerns comprising 15% of the questions.

Knowing what will be on each exam can help license applicants determine how best to spend their study time.

The Contractors State License Board provides study guides and sample questions for each exam. All three of them must be passed to obtain a C-36 license. However, each of them can be retaken if necessary.

Who Issues Plumbing Licenses in California?

Plumbing licenses in California are issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board.

The same organization renews plumbing contractor licenses, as well, and offers free workshops once a month for people interested in getting their contractor licenses.

Additional Plumbing Certifications in California

Many plumbers complete certification programs through local or national professional organizations.

The National Inspection Testing and Certification and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials certification are two good examples.

These certifications and participation in associated professional organizations are not necessary but they can help plumbers get more work by proving their competencies to prospective customers and potentially increase their salary.

Can I Transfer a Plumbing License to California?

There is no plumbing license reciprocity in California, however the state will consider exam waivers for licensed plumbers from Arizona.